Kamakura A Tokyo Day Trip
Temples, Beach, Historic Architecture, The Great Buddha!
Plan to visit Kamakura ....a Tokyo Day Trip only an hour’s train journey from central Tokyo.........yet seems a world away with it’s long sandy beach and historic Buddhist features.
GREAT BUDDHA - KAMAKURA
The Great Buddha is most characteristic of this very lovely town, and a popular visiting place for Japanese and tourists alike.
Beautifully tended gardens, and views to Mount Fuji if you are lucky with the weather, make this a “
” day trip from Tokyo. Make an early start and you can stop in at Tsukiji Fish Market en route. Then just catch the train for the rest of the trip.
With temples, shrines and other historic monuments you can spend a full day and include some time on the beach , or walk over the hill to the next train station via local homes.
The wide streets of Kamakura are lined with historic old shops, buildings, and houses that could tell many fascinating stories.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibutsu)
The Great Buddha of Kamakura ( Daibutsu) - is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha located in Kotokuin Temple grounds.
Standing 13.35 metres high it is the second largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, only surpassed by the Buddha at Todaiji Temple in Nara. Cast in 1252 .Originally inside a large temple hall............ the Buddha has been outside since the temple was washed away in a tsunami in the 15th century!
It is an amazing sight with a door at the back, where a queue waited patiently to go through.
Set in beautiful grounds you can spend some time here, taking in the views over Kamakura beach and beyond, having a meal in the restaurant and going through the different shrines, temples and gardens.
Hase Temple is a Jodo sect temple, famous for its statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. and the largest wooden sculpture in Japan.
At 9.18 metres high and beautifully gilded, the statue features Kannon with eleven heads, each representing a characteristic of the goddess. Hase temple's main building houses Kannon.
You get a great expansive view of the city from the terrace next to the temple's main buildings.
Hase Temple Restaurant
– for meals, drinks and sweets etc Try some traditional Japanese sweets -e.g. Mitarashi Dango are small rice flour dumplings covered with a sticky sauce made of sugar and soya sauce, threaded on a skewer.
Bentendo - is a small hall where the figure of Benten (or Benzaiten) stands......... a goddess of feminine beauty and wealth.
Located next to the temple garden and pond, you will find Bentendo, Sculptures of Benten and other minor gods can be found in a small cave ....Bentenkutsu next to the Bentendo.
It is an intriguing walk through the cave with glassed cases featuring scenes and sculptures..........it was my favourite feature because it was so unique.
Getting to Hase Temple
Hase Temple is a 5 minute walk from the Enoden Railway Hase Station, the third station from Kamakura main station. The Enoden is a streetcar-like train that connects Kamakura with Enoshima and Fujisawa. Its terminal station is located just west of JR Kamakura Station.
We preferred to get off the train and walk via Dankazura - a pedestrian path in the center of Wakamiya Oji street. If you are there in April you will enjoy a rare treat as it is lined with hundreds of flowering cherry trees which form a spectacular tunnel of white blossoms.
We wandered along the beachfront, where the kites were flying for Boys Day (5th May) and up through the interesting historic buildings en route.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura’s most important shrine. Built between 1063-1180, when it was moved to its present site.
The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and of the samurai. In the main buildings of the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine are the spirits of Hachiman, Empress Jingu and Emperor Chuai.
There is also a museum and a park. The shrine is one of Japan’s most frequently visited. There are many events held annually you may attend............. including if you are there in April and September, horseback archery (yabusame) performed on the lane that leads to the shrine's dance stage and main building.
Zeniarai Benten Shinto Shrine
Zeniarai Benten Shrine is a popular shrine in western Kamakura where people come to wash their money (zeniarai means "coin washing"). Apparently money washed in the shrine's spring, will double............worth a try I guess!
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The Zen Temples of Kamakura
1) Kenchoji Zen Temple
Kenchoji is the main temple of Zen Buddhism and the main temple of the five Zen temples located in Kamakura. Founded by Hojo Tokiyori in 1253, it is one of the oldest Zen temples in Japan, and the first one built in this area. The temple bell (Bonsho) has been designated a national treasure and there is a Zen Garden behind the main hall (Hojo)
2) Engakuji Zen Temple
Engakuji is the second of the five great Zen temples.and originally built to pay respect to the fallen Japanese and Mongolian soldiers.
While not open to visitors most of the year,the Shariden, a shrine where a tooth of Buddha is enshrined, is located on the temple grounds and has been designated a national treasure. Another Engakuji national treasure is the temple's large bell (ogane) sitting on a hill next to a teahouse where visitors can soak up the peaceful surrounds while they enjoy a cup of tea or sake.
3) Jufukuji Zen Temple
Jufukuji is the third most important of Kamakura’s five great Zen temples. Not open to the public, but the pathway leading to the temple, is open to the public and worth a look. Jufukuji is a 10-15 minute walk north of Kamakura Station, close to the railway tracks.
4) Jochiji Zen Temple
Jochiji is fourth of the five great Zen temples, also near the Engakuji Temple which is the head temple, just across the railway tracks.There are three wooden statues of Nyorai which can be viewed in the main hall (Dongeden). At the temple's entrance, one of the ten celebrated wells of Kamakura can be found.
Zuisenji Zen Temple
Zuisenji is a beautiful Zen temple is a good 40-45 minute walk from Kamakura station, surrounded by wooded hills and a branch of the Engakuji school. ( see above)
Founded by one of Japan's most famous garden designers....a Zen priest named Muso Kokushi, the temple is reknowned for its pure Zen rock garden designed by Muso and for the flowers and flowering trees in other parts of the temple grounds.
Myohonji is one of several Nichiren Buddhist temples in the hills in the southeast of the city. Hiki Yoshimoto founded the temple in 1260. A statue of Nichiren is the main feature. Located in an area with several temples and shrines via a walking track, it is another requiring good footwear and fine weather due to the strep and rough terrain.
Ankokuronji is one of several Nichiren Buddhist temples located in the hills above the city. Visitors can walk along a short forest hiking trail getting a lovely view of Kamakura, to the temple buildings. Only suitable if you have good walking shoes and dry weather, as parts of the track are steep.
Tokeiji Zen Temple
Tokeiji is the main temple, while the the Engakuji Temple, is located just a few hundred meters away on the opposite side of the railway tracks.
Founded by Hojo Tokimune's wife in 1285 Tokeiji Temple became famous as a shelter for abused wives wanting to divorce. While it used to be easy for a man to divorce his wife, it was much more difficult for a woman to divorce her husband before the Meiji Period.
However, at Tokeiji, women could become officially divorced by staying there for three years. Todeiji is a 5 minute walk from Kitakamakura Station.
There are lovely forest covered hills surrounding Kamakura with walking tracks. The trails are narrow and steep at times, and it is recommended to explore them only during dry weather and with good walking shoes.
We enjoyed a walk over the Western Hill track from near the Great Buddha, past The Zeniarai Benten and through a public park to Jochiji Temple in Kitakamakura , then down through a residential area to the train station.
There were small temples along the way. It took about 60-90 minutes with a stop for a cooling drink at a shop!The first part was a little steep and could be muddy in wet weather. The path became sealed about half way over.
Connecting Kenchoji with Kakuonji and Zuisenji.this hiking track takes about 60-90 minutes. There are several several tomb caves (yagura) along the way.
A hiking trail connects the Myohonji Temple, Yagumo Shrine and the Harakiri Yagura, a cave tomb where the remains of the last Hojo are buried. You get lovely views of the city en route.
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